Friday, December 31, 2010

The latest gizmo

It originated as a classic example of gender differences:  what the female sees as nothing more than an interesting conversational tidbit is interpreted by the male as an urgently-actionable issue. 

In this case, the informational tidbit was my observation that our current electricity usage seems perplexingly high.  Our new house is Energy Star rated and our SUMMER e-bills are quite low relative to those of the general population.  The trouble is, those bills didn't drop as much as I expected once the WINTER came and the air conditioning system stopped running. 

In my old house, summer bill = 3x winter bill.  Here, summer bill = 1.5x winter bill.  Anyone who lives in the south knows that makes no intuitive sense: air conditioners are supreme energy pigs, consuming way, WAY more than all other consumer devices.  We should not be having only a third of our total bill devoted to the a/c, so I don't know if this apparently-high baseline usage is simply due to the chronic load we put on our system (remember, I run my entire office out of the house), or whether there are serious bleeds and inefficiencies. 

Enter The Engineer and his credit card for the prompt purchase of a TED monitoring system:

One could question the wisdom of spending two hundred bucks on an energy monitor, but the thing might end up paying for itself.
So now there's now a gizmo attached to our exterior electrical panel and another gizmo plugged into an interior wall socket.  And a dizzying array of statistical bullshit emerges from the use of these two pieces of hardware:

This is a small part of what comes across the internet interface.  The other two members of the family are still asleep as I write this, so this basically represents my three oversized monitors coupled to the computer upon which I type, one five-CF-bulb chandelier suspended over my conference table, our huge freezer, and whatever other lights and devices have been left on or are idling or participating in the slow bleed that originates with otherwise-inactive devices siphoning power.

TED has only been running for a couple of days now, but this looks suspiciously like the part that is apparently leading to those perplexingly-high e-bills.  We are running the house in our normal fashion for the next few weeks just so we can get a complete "before" picture prior to instituting behavioral and device changes.
Anyway, this is yet another fascinating foray into the kind of life workings to which one usually doesn't devote much conscious attention.  We can certainly afford our e-bills, but that's not the point.  In general I don't like waste - I think it's unconscionable.  If this can answer for us the question as to whether or not there are ways to trim our usage while not impairing functionality, then it's a worthwhile exercise both financially and mentally. 

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